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What Does FS Mean On a PCGS Label?

By Mark Harvey - March 2, 2023

The number of acronyms that can appear on a PCGS label can be daunting for novice or even intermediate-level collectors. In previous articles we’ve explained designations like BM (or Branch Mint), and the meaning and criteria for RD, RB, and BN with copper coins. These are pretty straightforward once you’ve learned what they mean, but then there are other acronyms like SP or FS that can have different meanings, with the latter being something you might see more than once on the same label.

The first commonly encountered (more on that later) definition for FS is limited to the Jefferson Nickel series and denotes a Full Steps designation. The other FS that is seen across several different U.S. coin series denotes that the encapsulated example is a variety. The FS used here represents the initials of Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton, authors of the must-have reference, Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, giving us Fivaz-Stanton Numbers.

As defined in the fifth edition, volume one, of the aforementioned book, Fivaz-Stanton Numbers identify varieties as follows:

  • 101-299 – Obverse Doubled Die and/or Obverse Die Variety
  • 301-399 – Obverse Date Variety
  • 401-499 – Obverse Variety, Miscellaneous
  • 501-699 – Mintmark Variety
  • 701-799 – Miscellaneous Variety
  • 801-899 – Reverse Doubled Die
  • 901-999 – Reverse Variety, Miscellaneous
Coins featured in the PCGS Variety Attribution series. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click images to enlarge.

As touched on above, FS does have additional meanings in numismatic circles with reference to both “Full Strike” and “First Strike.” While you are likely to encounter the term First Strike in reference to PCGS coins, there’s a much better chance that you either see it as a special label, or simply spelled out in full below the grade and/or denomination.

Again, keep in mind that you may encounter FS on a label more than once. Take, for example, the 1943-P Jefferson Nickel Doubled Die Obverse FS-106, which has a current PCGS population of 14 designated Full Steps. So, if the question is whether you have an FS or an FS and the answer is “yes,” or “don’t you mean and?” you may have something special on your hands.

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